Babies: Crying, or Language Practice?


Newborns Cry in Native Language

Babies: Crying, Or Language Practice?

Newborn babies cry a lot, but according to a new study, these cries may be the beginning of language learning. Behavioral scientist Kathleen Wermke of the University of Würzburg in Germany has studied babies’ cries for two decades and believes that infants produce cries that mimic the melodies of their native language. By six months, fetuses have developed enough to be able to pick up sounds; Wermke believes this affects their cry melodies right after birth. “I think cry melody is really the beginning of language development,” she says. Her new study analyzed the digital recordings of melody contour in cries from thirty German and thirty French babies between two and five days old. While all infants produced a wide variety of cries, the scientists found that in general French babies produced more rising contour cries, while German babies produced more falling contour cries. These findings indicate that babies are already imitating the melodies of their respective native languages. Wermke says the study is a reminder that language does not start with the first word or syllable. Her next step is to compare cries from other language backgrounds, like Chinese and Japanese.

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This article appeared in the SPRING 2010 ISSUE, Click Here to Order

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How does this relate to human potential?

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